Centre has spent only 1% of this year’s allocations for pre-matric SC scholarships

Till December 2022, only ₹56 lakh has been spent on pre-matric scholarships for SC students and children of workers in hazardous occupations, despite ₹500 crore being allocated for the scheme

March 23, 2023 10:57 pm | Updated 10:57 pm IST - NEW DELHI

In the first nine months of the financial year 2022-23, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment was able to spend only 1% of its allocation for a pre-matric scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste students and others; and less than half the amount allocated for a post-matric scholarship scheme for SC students, government data submitted before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment showed. 

In its report on the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment’s Demands for Grants for 2023-24, tabled in both Houses on Thursday, the House panel also pointed out that under the PM-YASASVI scheme, which provides for pre- and post-matric scholarship benefits to Other Backward Classes, Extremely Backward Classes, and Denotified Tribes, just a little over 2% of the more than ₹1,500 crore allocation had been spent, as of December 31, 2022.   

The Committee noted that in the case of the post-matric scholarship for SC students, the government had been able to spend just ₹2,500.22 crore of the allocated ₹5,660 crore until December 31, 2022. In the same time period, the actual expenditure on the pre-matric scholarship scheme for SC students and others was just ₹56 lakh out of the ₹500 crore allocated.

New disbursement system

The low expenditure in the schemes for SC students was due to delays caused by a new disbursement mechanism for Centrally-sponsored schemes which require State contributions, the panel noted. However, the PM-YASASVI scheme also saw low utilisation even though it is 100% supported by the Union government.

In its report, the House panel appreciated new measures such as the establishment of a single nodal agency system for Centrally sponsored schemes, and the inspection of NGOs being done before releasing grants-in-aid; but also pointed out problems with the new mechanism. 

States delay; students suffer

“The Committee, at the same time, feel that the new system of States releasing their share first may slow the pace in those cases where there are States/UTs, which may not be in a position to release their share timely due to a variety of reasons,” it said.

While also rapping several State and UT governments for not releasing their shares first, the House panel expressed concern for the students who are facing the consequences of this and said, “The Department (of Social Justice and Empowerment) should take up this issue at appropriate level”.

Teething troubles

The government submitted before the House panel that the reason for low expenditure under the pre-matric scheme was because 2022-23 was the first year of its implementation as a merged scheme, because of which State and UT governments could not set up their scholarship portals in time. Earlier, the scheme was split into two -- one for SC students and one for children of those engaged in hazardous occupations. It was merged into one and implemented as such from 2022-23.

Under the new system, the Centre sends its 60% share of the funds through a Direct Benefit Transfer to the Aadhaar-linked bank account of the beneficiary, but only after the concerned State government releases its 40% share of the funds. 

The government said that similar teething problems were seen when the post-matric scholarship for SC students shifted to the new payments system the year before, as a result of which in 2021-22, the government could spend just ₹1,978.55 crore out of the ₹3,415.62 crore allocation.

‘Mission mode’

The House panel expressed hope that the respective State and UT governments would pursue their parts in the implementation of the pre-matric scheme in “Mission Mode”. 

The Committee also called for the government to publicise the pre-matric scheme in unaided private schools as well and suggested measures like setting up help-desks in schools, reaching out to management committees of schools, and announcements at morning assemblies, among others. 

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